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Punisher: War Zone

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It doesn’t really matter if Punisher: War Zone is a sequel to 2004’s The Punisher or a reboot of the franchise. With a drastically different tone than its predecessor, this latest take on Marvel Comics’ grim vigilante tale stands on its own. Where the original Punisher strived for respectability with a top-notch cast and PG-13 rating, War Zone takes its cue from the revenge flicks that originally inspired the character. This movie not only earns its R rating but also seems determined to give Rambo a run for its money as the most violent film of 2008. Taking over the title role from Thomas Jane, Ray Stevenson is suitably menacing as he blows away underworld scum. But the most enjoyable performances are from Dominic West and Doug Hutchison, chewing up the scenery (and the occasional supporting actor) as villainous brothers Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim. There may be better films playing this holiday season, but none features a better dinner-table decapitation scene. HHH

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